Going through the Motions; Building the Elite Athlete; Scientific American Presents; by Delia K. Cabe, side bar by Naomi Lubick; 4 Page(s)
Apitcher's windup. A gymnast's dismount. A swimmer's glide. Basic principles of physics govern these movements. Biomechanics, the discipline that studies them, tries to reduce the heroic grace and power of the athlete to its most essential constituents. A medal-winning dash to the finish line is not a triumph of the human spirit but a product of mass times acceleration. Biomechanists are the practitioners of the most fundamental science of sport. If only center of gravity, velocity and acceleration could be deduced with sufficient precision, a winning performance might be engineered from first principles. In such a world, the coach would become more cheerleader than trainer.
This vision follows logically from an understanding of the research endeavors of biomechanics. Paradoxically, these premier scientists of sport would be unlikely to articulate such a grand scheme for their doings. Many biomechanical experts, in fact, are having to fight a defensive rearguard action to justify the relevance of their jobs.